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What I Mean Open Source

04/26/07 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi, Cleveland, Economic Development, Geekism

Couple days ago, I ranted about the lack of open source requirements in the Cleveland Wifi RFP. I tried to explain to CTO Melodie Mayberry-Stewart in a conference call when she first presented to Cleveland Digital Vision. I don't think I did a good job, considering the end result. It is even more complicated when I also speak of Open Source Hardware.

Fortunately, Make Magazine's blog has a good post that explains and gives examples. Below I chop up much of their effort to give an outline.

There are a few definitions, some come from "open source software" which is usually considered software's - "source code under a license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that permits users to study, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form"

So how does this translate to hardware?

Electronic hardware can be divided up into layers, each of which has different document types and licensing concerns.

  • Hardware (Mechanical) diagrams
    Dimensions for enclosures, mechanical subsystems, etc. For 2d models, preferred document type is vector graphics file, with dimension prints, DXF or AI, etc.
  • Schematics & Circuit diagrams
    Symbolic diagrams of electronic circuitry, includes parts list (sometimes inclusively). Often paired with matching layout diagram. Preferred document type is any sort of image (PDF, BMP, GIF, PNG, etc)
  • Parts list
    What parts are used, where to get them, part numbers, etc.
  • Layout diagrams
    Diagrams of the physical layout of electronic circuitry including the placement of parts, the PCB copper prints and a drill file. This is often paired with a schematic. Preferred distribution is Gerber RS274x and Excellon (for drills).
  • Core/Firmware
    The source code for that runs on a microcontroller/microprocessor chip. In some cases, the code may be the design of the chip hardware itself (in VHDL). Preferred distribution: text file with source code in it, as well as compiled 'binary' for the chip.
  • Software/API
    The source code that communicates or is used with the electronics from a computer.

    Each level can be open sourced, but the exact nature of what it means to open it varies. In practice, not every layer is fully open. Often only a subset of the layers are released, documented or open source.

Click on to the actual post for the examples, sample projects and a good argument for open source that is applicable to both software and hardware.

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